In an abandoned medical building in rural Ohio, Skylar Keffer (he/him) and the rest of Orefice Roth meet up to bring some songs to life. The drums are set up in an old X-ray room. The rest of the players use exam and patient rooms to set up their equipment. Together, the band explores the outer reaches of the high lonesome sound; melodies darting out from behind every shadowy corner in the building. Keffer & co are embracing a new Americana — one that encompasses the best things about the rural places across these fruited plains.
It was once said of Miles Davis that he knew how to find collaborators, often calling people last minute to meet him at a studio to help with arrangements. Keffer is carrying on that American tradition begun by Davis, organizing a group of players into something bigger than the sum of its parts. Since this project started during the pandemic, convenience and safety drove Keffer to explore collaboration via . Eventually, the collaboration settled into an almost stable lineup with Mike Abaddini (he/him), Dizzy Simmons (she/they), and Lip Jaworski (he/him). Mike Brenner of Wild Pink and Magnolia Electric Co. also plays pedal steel on a number of the group’s tracks. For their most recent single, the group was joined by drummer Austin Latare and slide guitar and harmony-man Ray Flannagan.
Keffer’s mother toured with Americana groups when Keffer was a kid. For a long time after, Keffer associated folk and music with traditional instruments as something from an older generation. In the past six years, he’s realized the power of that music to serve as a auditory reflection of the landscape. It can be a soundtrack to those long drives on Midwestern highways, en route to this country’s often-forgotten center. The band’s first single, “LET ME IN, LET ME IN, LET ME IN,” is a reflection on a dark, haunted place in Keffer’s childhood. Keffer told Ghettoblaster Magazine in April of 2021:
“It’s about where I used to live with my family. When we left it, and when it was scrubbed of any trace of us, not a dish, not a receipt, not a hair and not a skin cell, we stepped back and witnessed darkness reclaim the empty space like vines on ruins. I would ritualistically drive past it and get this feeling in my stomach. I expected it to see it with its windows smashed and its door kicked in, or maybe it just wouldn’t be there anymore. I felt protective and scared. This is the context this song exists in and where it came from.”
Keffer’s writing is informed by geography; an intimate connection with lonely, long-forgotten places and the memories made there. The band’s newest single, “No Dust!” is a reflection on a nomadic lifestyle, exposing the sometimes tenuous connection to life that roamers and ramblers often have. Keffer sings, “I wanna be dust, if I must / be anything at all / but I don’t wanna put doubt, in the hearts of the ones I love.” He recalls that the song was written for a friend who had moved out West, and hadn’t found the same musical connections and collaborations. The song is written about a curse, and explores the idea that the curse might actually be a gift. There’s a simple honesty in Keffer’s work, an honesty that reveals an active, curious, wandering mind. And Orefice Roth offers the perfect opportunity for Keffer to explore what it means to be an American living through the 21st century.
The band excels at crafting a perfect platter for Keffer to serve up his memory-fueled musings. Soft, yet driving rhythms propel slide guitar and pedal steel leads. Bits of keyboard and acoustic guitar surround Keffer’s plaintive voice, bringing the lyrics to the forefront of the listener’s attention. This feels like a formula that could last forever. The band has been firing on all cylinders since that first single earlier this year, and shows no signs of stopping. As Keffer and his crew of rascals prepare for another collection of songs, there’s no doubt they will be powerful reflections on American life and the dilapidated buildings that cast strange shadows on the horizon.
“..it’s just a thrill to find country and folk seemingly being pushed out of a comfort zone so successfully. The road doesn’t go on forever, but the sky certainly does.”Beats Per Minute
“The blooming acoustic guitar strumming start of the track delicately unites the dreamy synths and pedal steel. The combination of folk and experimental rock also demonstrates the pained vocals courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Skylar Keffer.“Ghettoblaster Magazine
“With vocalist Skylar Keffer’s delicate voice backed by soulful and intentional instrumentations, Orefice Roth creates a sound that is celebratory of the often forgotten Midwest.“Music Mecca
“Keffer’s observations about the human condition are reinforced by the band’s channeling of Country & Western motifs through a dreamy indie rock soundscape.“Stereo Embers